What are National Park and Its Benefits? Biology Notes for Class 12
A national park is a large area of land which is protected by the government because of its natural surroundings, plants, animals, and where the public can frequently visit. A national park is meant for conservation purpose. It is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that is owned by any sovereign state. Countries around the world have their own national parks and the designation of national parks across the globe depends on each individual country’s system and judgment. Though the individual nations designate their own national parks differently, there is a common idea, that is, to conserve the ‘wild nature’ for posterity (future generations) and as a symbol of national pride. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which is an international organization, and it’s World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), has categorized “National Parks” in Category II type of protected areas list.
Yellowstone National Park was the first national park that was established in the United States in 1872. The largest national park according to the area is the Northeast Greenland National Park, which was developed in 1974. In 1969, the IUCN declared a national park having the following important characteristics:
- A fairly large area having one or several ecosystems which are not substantially altered by human manipulation and occupation. It is an area where plant and animal species, geomorphological sites and habitats are of special scientific, educational, and recreational interest. It should also have a natural landscape of great beauty.
- The highest competent authority of the country has taken certain steps to prevent or eliminate exploitation as soon as possible in the whole area and has effectively imposed the respect of ecological, geomorphological, or aesthetic features which have led to the establishment.
- Visitors are allowed to enter the area, under special conditions, for inspirational, educative, cultural, and recreational purposes.
In 1971, the above criteria were further expanded and made clearer and defined benchmarks to assess a national park. These include:
- The minimum size of the land should be 1,000 hectares within zones in which protection of nature takes precedence.
- Statutory legal protection.
- Sufficient budget and staff should be maintained to provide effective protection.
- The exploitation of natural resources (including the development of dams) should be prohibited.
The term national park is now defined by the IUCN, but many protected areas in many countries are called national park even when they correspond to other categories of the IUCN Protected Area Management Definition, for example:
Swiss National Park, Switzerland: IUCN Ia – It is a Strict Nature Reserve
Everglades National Park, United States: IUCN Ib – It is defined as Wilderness Area
Victoria Falls National Park, Zimbabwe: IUCN III – It is National Monument
Vitosha National Park, Bulgaria: IUCN IV – It is a Habitat Management Area
New Forest National Park, United Kingdom: IUCN V – It is a Protected Landscape
Etniko Ygrotopiko Parko Delta Evrou, Greece: IUCN VI – It is Managed Resource Protected Area
Read other biology notes for class 12 Biodiversity and its Importance
The National Park Service (NPS) is an agency of the United States federal government that manages all national parks, many national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties with various title designations. There are many National Parks in the world. The first one established (in 1872) was the United States Yellowstone National Park. As of July 2015, there were 103 national parks which cover an area of 40,500 km2 (15,600 sq mi), comprising 1.23% of India’s total surface area.
In India, the national parks are IUCN category II protected areas. The first national park in India was established in 1936 as Hailey National Park, now known as Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand. By 1970, India only had five national parks. As of today, there are 166 national parks in India.
Hemis national park is the largest national park in terms of area. Its area is around 3350 sq km and is located in Leh district of Jammu and Kashmir. It is also National Park located at the highest altitude. But Jim Corbett National Park is one of the most popular wildlife destinations in India. South Button National Park in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is categorized as the smallest National Park of India with the area of 2 square miles.
BENEFITS OF NATIONAL PARKS
1. National Parks Protect wildlife
At present, many animal species are facing extinction, because their natural habitats are being steadily destroyed. National parks are established to safeguard these habitats and provide a safe space for wildlife to breed and survive.
2. National Parks protect landscapes
Not only animals are at risk of disappearing but, landforms like mountains, rainforests valleys, etc. are at risk of disappearing due to the actions of humans and also the natural action of the environment. Many landforms are at risk from pollution, and if they are controlled under national park status, they have a better chance of survival. In national parks, they are protected from development, destruction, and pollution.
3. National Parks help to preserve the history
The historical structures that are built on national park land are preserved. They give us a better idea of how people lived in the past, and how their cultures worked. There are many different structures that can be preserved which help the people to learn from the past and continue building for the future.
4. Help in Preserving Cultures and Tribes
In many national parks around the world, people live away and apart from main civilization, and their culture and members are largely protected under the status of the national park. By setting up protected areas, tribes and indigenous peoples who would otherwise struggle and remain misfit in the continuously developing societies, are protected from these actions. Thus, National parks not only protect animals and wildlife, in a way they protect people too.
5. Giving people the chance for healthy living
National parks provide the public with space for healthy exercise and recreation in the open air. It is important to conserve places where the natural environment is uninterrupted and integrated so that people can slow down, enjoy nature, and get some exercise by walking, running, or riding bikes. Many national parks in the US have established trail systems that provide wide routes for exploration on foot. People get a chance to relax and combat the stress of busy lives and breathe fresh and healthy air.
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